Somebody from the Mead High School class of 1988 needs to get on the ball.
Your 10-year class reunion is coming up and no one has bothered to send Craig Montoya an invitation.
Maybe you didn’t notice Montoya back then. He wasn’t a jock. He wasn’t a brain. He wasn’t popular. He was a kid with a bass who hung out with the rest of the guys who weren’t jocks and weren’t popular.
For that matter, he barely even graduated.
Perhaps Montoya’s invite merely got lost in the mail. After all, he’s been downright difficult to track down these days. Australia and Japan, Portland, Atlanta, and nearly every other big city in the U.S. — he’s spent time in all of these places.
It makes a man hard to find, hard to send an invitation to.
But if you want to check up on that guy who seemed strapped on the fast track to nowhere, you might try turning on the radio, or maybe MTV. Heck, pick up just about any music magazine, you’ll find him there.
Billboard magazine says you can find him and his buddies among the top 100 groups making music right now.
They’re in a little band called Everclear.
The difference a decade can make
David Letterman. Jay Leno. “Saturday Night Live.” Rolling Stone. Spin. Time.
Montoya and his bandmates Art Alexakis and Greg Eklund have met with, appeared on and been written about by all of the above.
“Man, I never thought we’d have this kind of success to tell you the truth,” Montoya says with the glee of a guy who knows plenty of other people never thought he would either. “I just never expected it.”
At the moment Montoya is talking about Everclear’s recent trip to Australia. People on the other side of the world dig his music. To him, this is awe inspiring.
“It’s really beautiful down there and the kids, they just love the music for what it is and they’re not afraid to dance. They treat us like gods. It’s really odd but it’s really cool.”
In 1990, Montoya left Spokane for Portland. There he met singer/guitarist Alexakis and in 1992 they formed Everclear with drummer Scott Cuthbert. (Cuthbert would later be replaced by Eklund.)
The trio played lots of shows, they made a seven-inch record, a full-length album and an EP and in 1994 Capitol Records signed the band.
A year later Everclear released a record called “Sparkle and Fade.” A million copies sold. Last year they released a CD called “So Much For The Afterglow.” They’ve already sold half a million of those.
Back in the days …
Montoya went to a high school where he didn’t quite fit in.
“There’s a lot of rich kids that go out there and my family was pretty poor,” he says. “I just couldn’t get into school activities so what I did was hang out in the smoking area with all the stoners and the musicians and that’s where I seemed to fit in best.
“I was a total dork.”
Montoya’s brother and father played guitar and so did most of his friends. “Everybody wanted to be Eddie Van Halen and I always wanted to be a drummer. But I couldn’t really afford a drum set.”
Since there weren’t many bassists around Spokane, Montoya spent the summer mowing lawns for enough money to buy a bass. Then he sat at home listening to Motley Crew records, learning them edge to center.
He and a couple of friends started a band and played Crew, Iron Maiden and Kiss songs. During one talent show they wore tie-died shirts, bell-bottoms and wigs. They played Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire.”
“It was really funny,” Montoya says. “We were kind of outcasts but we had fun doing it.”
Fame and long days on road
If Montoya is now living the life of a rock star, he’s not behaving like he thinks he’s a rock star.
He’s seen other people in famous bands do that — seen their egos balloon along with the alcohol and drug use. He’s not interested.
“You’ve got to realize it’s just music. You’ve just got to go out and have fun and not buy into your own bull. You’ve got to remember why you play music.”
Montoya remembers why.
“It’s because you love to play music.”
And frankly, he’s too busy to think about all that other stuff. On tour since September, his time is spent on the road — or in the air — getting from point A to point B to point C to an endless string of points down the line. When the Everclear guys aren’t in a bus or in a plane, they’re doing interviews with a stream of reporters asking the same questions over and again. They visit radio stations and greet contest winners. They eat dinner with industry executives and record store owners. Somewhere in there Montoya fits in time for a rock concert and a half-hour phone call to his girlfriend.
He met his girlfriend at a show Everclear played in Atlanta. She stood in front of him throughout the concert.
“She came up to me afterward and said she really enjoyed the show, and that was it. She walked off,” he says. “She sent me a letter a couple weeks later. I called her the next day when I got the letter and we’ve been talking ever since.”
Sparkle and Glow
“So Much For The Afterglow” makes you think Everclear could play just about anything.
Note the woooo-woooo Beach Boys nod as the album opens. Note the lovely dusting of banjo on “Why I Don’t Believe In God.” Note that they still know how to rock.
For this album they waded deeper into the pop pool. They also paid tribute to their country roots. Yet this latest album from the band that scrapped it’s way uphill when grunge was still a cool term, hasn’t forgotten its thrashy guitars and boisterous blasts of energy. It hasn’t lost that crack-quick punk kick to the head. It’s like they’ve grown wiser without growing up.
If you ask Montoya why Everclear is successful, he points to Alexakis, the primary singer/songwriter and a man with a knack for poking a pin through the heart of human stories - abandonment, despair, insanity, broken lives and loves. He stabs inward. He stabs outward. Some of his songs are true to his own life, some are true to everyone’s lives. And when Alexakis visits them in song, people understand him. They connect.
As for Montoya, this album a finds him finding something new in himself - a stronger singing voice, one that lends the album a a more generous breadth.
“I always knew I had a voice inside me, I just didn’t know how to control it.”
Return to Spokane
Montoya used to work in a boat repair shop in the Valley. The guys he worked with teased him about being in a band.
“They thought it was so funny.”
They thought Montoya was telling the biggest whopper of all when he announced he was quitting his job to move to Portland for a career in music.
“They’re like, ‘You’ll be back in a year. Why don’t you just leave your tool chest here because you’ll be back.’ I’m like, ‘You guys, I’m not coming back. I’m gone. I’ll see you later. Come to my concert when I come through town.’ They’re like, ‘Aww you’ll be back, you’ll be back.”’
Turns out they were right.
Montoya is back.
But if the naysayers didn’t get their tickets to this Sunday’s Everclear show within eight minutes after they went on sale, they won’t be seeing Montoya. The show sold out just that quick. , DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 2 Photos
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: CONCERT Everclear plays at The Met Sunday at 8 p.m. with Jimmie’s Chicken Shack and Feeder. The concert is sold out.